IIMA, BITS Pilani grads launch $1M fund to support student startups


IIM-A and BITS Pilani alumni Abhishek Sethi and Prateek Behera have launched gradCapital, a $1 million fund, to back and invest in startups founded by college students. 

A press statement shared by the fund stated it plans to invest $25,000 in 20 startups in a year. Bengaluru-based gradCapital said it has initiated the application process for its first group of startups.

Abhishek Sethi, Co-founder at gradCapital, said, “We genuinely believe in academic spaces. Think historically, major societal transformations have emerged from university campuses. The LGBTQ+ movement, the microprocessor that runs our phones, or immunotherapy for Cancer – all have their roots in just one college campus.” 

“Students have been at the origins of these radical ideas. Our vision is to cultivate these academic spaces. Entrepreneurship is a way to bring such strong ideas to life and create value for society and we are betting on such ideas. With this mission, we help students build the companies of the future.” 

The student-focussed VC fund has been essentially created to help college graduates develop their exciting ideas into businesses. 

gradCapital is also being backed by CIIE.CO – The Innovation Continuum, based out of IIM Ahmedabad. To identify startups, gradCapital has recruited associates from across the country and decentralized its operations. 

It has also joined hands with student communities across campuses to discover the best hustling talent. The fund will host an eight-week intensive program for companies founded and run by college students. This program will provide a layout favorable to the context of students to ensure they are all ready to raise their subsequent funding round.

Besides building a solid and sustainable structure for their company, these young entrepreneurs will also receive several tools, critical knowledge, a network of peers, mentors, investors, and funding of $25,000. 

Prateek Behera, Co-founder at gradCapital, said, “There is tremendous value waiting to be unlocked by students from Science, Commerce, Arts, and Engineering colleges. VCs do not take these bets because it doesn’t fit their risk profile. These companies often are missed by larger VCs due to a gap in the understanding of emerging technologies, millennial consumers or new kinds of economies.” 

The program will offer weekly keynotes, 1:1 mentorship, office hours with experts, and, in the end, an investor-focused demo day. They strive to discover the next generation of unicorns started by founders out of colleges. 

gradCapital intends to invest in 100 startups in the next three years. The statement added gradCapital’s aim isn’t solely to find some companies and give them a lift. While conceptualizing the idea, Abhishek and Prateek successfully ran a pilot to test their hypothesis. They ended up with a cohort of eight companies, including KiranaKart, Humit, Codedamn, Valerio Electric, and Neuralastic.

gradCapital is an amazing initiative to encourage and promote new entrepreneurs in the country. It will definitely benefit several students who are starting out on the entrepreneurial journey. My best wishes to the team of gradCapital.

Shishir Gupta, Founder and CEO, StartupLanes

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